N.Y. personal injury law firm being sued for legal malpractice

By Jessica Karmasek | Mar 15, 2016


OXFORD, Miss.- A Florida man and his wife are suing a New York law firm for malpractice, alleging the firm and two of its attorneys failed to properly represent them in a personal injury lawsuit against the owners of two Mississippi hotels.

Matthew Coombs and his wife, Sherri, filed their lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi, Oxford Division, March 4.

The named defendants include personal injury law firm Goidel & Siegel LLP and attorneys Jonathan M. Goidel and Peter H. McCallion.

According to Coombs’ 15-page complaint, he was employed in the fall of 2010 by Chawla and Sons Inc. to manage its Holiday Inn Express in Greenville, Miss. Coombs lived in the hotel while managing it.

During his employment, the hotel was contaminated with mold. Coombs alleged in his underlying lawsuit that he became sick because of the “toxic” substance.

In addition to Chawla and Sons, he blamed Intercontinental Hotels Group PLC and Holiday Hospitality Franchising Inc. HHF, in particular, was charged with maintaining high standards of safety in its licensee hotels and had the duty to inspect and consult with Chawla and Sons regarding the Greenville hotel’s operation, appearance and service, he alleged.

Coombs argued in his underlying suit that he wouldn’t have sustained injuries from the mold contamination at the hotel if HHF had “properly inspected” the premises and required Chawla and Sons to eradicate the mold.

Coombs also alleged that Chawla and Sons’ management of a refinishing and reglazing project at its Holiday Inn Express in Cleveland, Miss., nearly killed him.

According to his most recent complaint, he was employed by Chawla and Sons to manage the hotel from December 2010 to January 2011 -- soon after leaving the Greenville hotel.

Chawla and Sons, he alleges, hired Unique Refinishers Inc. to perform work to the bathtubs in the hotel. The work was done in January 2011.

Similar to the Greenville hotel, Coombs both worked and resided in the Cleveland hotel. As a result, he was exposed “continuously” to the “toxic” fumes emanating from the chemicals Unique Refinishers used to refinish and reglaze the bathtubs, he alleged.

The exposure resulted in “severe respiratory failure.” Coombs was airlifted to a nearby hospital, where he was put on a respirator. A doctor at the hospital determined he was “on the brink of death” when he arrived.

Coombs returned to Florida in 2011, but continues to suffer permanent lifelong injuries that prevent him from working and performing “even the most basic tasks” around his home.

As a result, he hired Goidel & Siegel in July 2011 to represent him in a personal injury lawsuit.

However, Coombs alleges in his complaint that the defendants failed to properly represent him and his wife. He argues that his wife had a claim for loss of consortium and lost services in the underlying case, but that the defendants failed to assert such claims.

Among other things, Coombs alleges the defendants deviated from the standard of care by failing to retain an expert to testify as to any opinion related to any safety measure or equipment that Unique Refinishers could have used during their work or such that would have prevented Coombs’ alleged injuries.

The defendants, he alleges, also failed to attend the scheduled and noticed pre-trial conference at which the attorneys trying the case were required to be present.

Coombs says he has suffered “substantial damages” as a result of the defendants’ negligence.

He and his wife are seeking: damages, costs of the action, prejudgment interest, post judgment interest, attorneys’ fees if allowable and a jury trial.

They are being represented by the Philip W. Thomas Law Firm in Jackson, Miss.

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